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Barden’s super-precision bearings have been used on Curiosity, NASA’s Mars rover. The bearings are located in many positions aboard Curiosity, including in the turret, on the drill-bit assembly and in the vibration motor — an integral part of the CHIMRA (collection and handling for in-situ Martian rock analysis) tool.

Curiosity has been built to withstand the extremely harsh environment of Mars. The planet’s conditions, which include temperatures that range from -90°C to 0°C and wind speeds of up to 140km per hour, place enormous demands on the bearings used and it is critical that they do not fail or present any problems for NASA control on Earth as maintenance is not possible.

Barden’s super-precision bearings were selected for this application. Bearings on the drill-bit assembly are angular-contact (15° contact angle) bearings manufactured to ABEC 7 standards, with SAE 52100 steel rings and balls and Phenolic ball retainers.

The bearings on the vibration motor were also manufactured to ABEC 7 standards, with 440C rings and Phenolic ball retainers, and were lightly pre-loaded.

Key benefits of product application

  • The bearings met the customer’s key considerations: compact design, low mass, low friction and rapid delivery.
  • Barden bearings have experience of the Martian environment — they have been used previously on board the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, as well as the Phoenix Lander.

Barden

The Barden Corporation specialises in the design and manufacture of super precision ball bearings used in high performance applications across a broad range of market sectors. The company’s extensive product line includes key components for the aerospace and defence sectors, vacuum pumps, food processing, robotics and medical equipment.

The Barden Corporation specialises in the design and manufacture of super precision ball bearings used in high performance applications across a broad range of market sectors. The company’s extensive product line includes key components for the aerospace and defence sectors, vacuum pumps, food processing, robotics and medical equipment.

These products are predominantly radial, single and double row, angular contact or deep groove super precision ball bearings, which are offered in thousands of standard variations, although a significant proportion of production is devoted to special bearings. Bearings come in inch or metric dimensions with diameters ranging from 4mm (0.16″) outer diameter (OD) up to 180mm (approx 7″) OD and can operate comfortably at speeds of two million dN (bore in mm x RPM) or above. A variety of bearing seals, shields and metallic/non-metallic cage designs are available for all products.

Barden’s engineering team is able to offer unique solutions to bearing-related challenges by developing bearings and complex assemblies to assist customers in reducing parts count, assembly time and operating costs. Products across all ranges can meet and usually exceed ISO P2 (ABEC 9) standards whilst also offering full traceability back to raw materials where required.

The Barden Corporation is a key strategic member of the multinational Schaeffler Group, which specialises in bearing technologies and precision products for aerospace, industrial plant and automotive industries and has over 82,000 employees at approximately 170 locations in 50 countries. Schaeffler is headquartered in Germany and oversees three main brands: FAG, INA and LuK. Barden’s activities are supported by sister sites, The Barden Corporation (US) based in Danbury, USA, and the Winsted Precision Ball Company in Connecticut, USA.

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